The Dark Tower TV show

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: the big screen adaptation of Stephen King‘s The Dark Tower.)

The Man in Black fled across the desert, and The Dark Tower movie followed. Bringing Stephen King’s fantasy-epic series to the big screen has been a highly-anticipated dream for many fans of the books. Long have they desired to see the realm of Mid-World realized on the silver screen; to see the adventures of Roland Deschain brought to life. And now that that day has finally come, the results are crushingly disappointing. Because The Dark Tower is one of the most frustrating types of films: it’s neither excellent nor atrocious – it just is. A middling, often lazy film that just sort of lays there like an old, threadbare carpet.

It’s time to travel once again around the wheel and figure out just why this film is such a misfire, and how badly it forgets not only the face of its father but also the very source material that brought it into existence.

Spoilers follow, of course.

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Your The Dark Tower Questions

After a long, winding road, The Dark Tower hits the big screen this weekend. It’s taken a lot of time and effort to bring Stephen King‘s fantasy epic to life, and the transition from page to screen has not been a smooth one. The Dark Tower contains some complex, sprawling mythology, and a lot of that mythology doesn’t transfer very well into the film. That may give you pause, but never fear – if you’ve forgotten the face of your fathers, I’m here to show you the way and answer some important questions in the process, especially if you’re a non-reader who was totally baffled by the movie.

Beware of spoilers.

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now stream this sam shepard

(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)

Crank the air conditioner – August is upon us, bringing with it the dog days of summer and the realization that the winter is more terrifyingly close than ever. But there’s still plenty of time left to stream movies. In fact, you have your entire life to do that, so why not get started now? If you’re unsure of just what to watch, never fear – Now Stream This is here.

In this edition, we have a recent film with a stellar performance from the late, great Sam Shepard; one of the most genuinely creepy ghost movies ever made; an ambitious, often misunderstood sci-fi epic; a Stephen King adaptation; one of the strangest sequels in Hollywood history, and much more! So dab some sunscreen on your nose and pull the recliner up nice and close to the TV. Let’s get streaming.

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village

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or TV show, or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of M. Night Shyamalan unjustly maligned The Village.)

“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.”C.S. Lewis, A Grief Observed

M. Night Shyamalan’s career has been bumpy. He found monumental success with his 1999 ghost story The Sixth Sense, and continued to garner acclaim and stellar box office returns with its two follow-ups, Unbreakable and Signs. Yet after Signs, a rift began to form between Shyamalan’s work and how the public perceived it. Eventually, the filmmaker fell almost completely out of favor, only managing to climb back on top slowly with recent films The Visit and Split. Nothing can quite capture the meteoric rise of Shyamalan’s early career, though.

While Lady in the Water might have been the film that torpedoed the last remaining shreds of good will towards Shyamalan’s work, it was 2004’s The Village (which came out 13 years ago yesterday) that started the dissent. More often than not, when people want to hold up examples of Shyamalan’s lesser work, they tend to lump The Village in with misfires like The Happening.

This is a mistake.

The Village is one of Shyamalan’s most interesting films, and perhaps one of his best. A melancholy meditation on grief and fear, it radiates sorrow in ways his other films do not. Yes, it does have that expected Shyamalan twist – two of them, in fact. But the film is more than its twists, and deserves to be watched with fresh eyes.

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Night of the Living Dead Prequel

(Welcome to Now Stream This, a column dedicated to the best movies streaming on Netflix, Amazon, Hulu, and every other streaming service out there.)

Put your I HEART STREAMING shirts on, it’s time for another edition of Now Stream This, where I scour a plethora of streaming services in search of the perfect film for you to beam right into your living room. Did you know, according to a study I just made up, doctors recommend streaming at least 10 movies a week in order to live a long, happy life? Luckily, I have ten recommendations right here for you! You might say I just saved your life. You’re welcome. In this installment, we have something from the late, great George Romero; a paranoid thriller; an American classic; a highly influential documentary; the film that put Christopher Nolan on the map, and more! Let’s get streaming.

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killing ground review

Why do people even bother to go camping anymore? To quote Jim Gaffigan, “The only happy camper is the one leaving the camp ground.” When you head into the woods for a getaway, you have to contend with the heat, bugs, uncomfortable sleeping situations, and, if movies are to be believed, psycho killers. It seems whenever characters in films decide to pitch a tent somewhere, it’s not long before weapon-wielding lunatics come calling (and killing). 

This very familiar scenario gets a mostly inventive twist in Damien Power’s slow-burn Aussie horror flick Killing Ground. Writer-director Power takes the traditional set-up of young people in peril in the woods and tinkers with the narrative, building every so deliberately toward an inevitable, unsettling conclusion.

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Jamie Lee Curits Psycho Shower Scene

The running water. The figure behind the shower curtain. The flash of the knife. The sudden screech of strings to accompany the slaughter. Everyone knows the shower scene from Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho – even people who have somehow managed to never see the film. It is, perhaps, the most famous scene in film history, and it’s a moment that changed the medium itself.

So famous and influencial is the shower scene that it now has its own documentary in the form of Alexandre O. Philippe’s fascinating 78/52. While at times bordering on Hitchcock hagiography, 78/52 is an incredibly in-depth exploration of just what makes the shower scene, and Psycho in general, tick. At the time, Hitchcock had become a household name thanks to his Alfred Hitchcock Presents TV series. He was also coming off the technological wonder that was North By Northwest. The fame brought on by these projects enabled the filmmaker to get away with murder, so to speak, by adapting Robert Bloch’s lurid, pulpy Psycho, ostensibly applying an A-movie mentality to a B picture.

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Dunkirk Spoiler Review

(In our Spoiler Reviews, we take a deep dive into a new release and get to the heart of what makes it tick…and every story point is up for discussion. In this entry: Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk.)

In Christopher Nolan movies, the clock is always ticking.

Time is a precious commodity, and it’s also a luxury that the characters who inhabit Nolan films do not have. With his tenth film, Dunkirk, Nolan applies his favored ticking clock narrative to its fullest, crafting arguably his best film, or at least the film that most exemplifies his considerable talents. It’s also in a way a rebuff of the criticisms that have dogged many of his films up until this point – if you thought some of Nolan’s films before Dunkirk were too exposition-heavy, here is a film with almost no exposition to speak of. If you believed his previous movies lacked emotion or feeling, witness this: a film that is relentlessly tense and harrowing, concluding with a moment of perfectly rendered emotional triumph. It seems hyperbolic to throw the “masterpiece” designation around so soon after a film is released, but if Nolan’s Dunkirk isn’t officially a masterpiece yet, time may eventually fully reward it that distinction. The clock is ticking.

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interstellar movie

(Welcome to The Unpopular Opinion, a series where a writer goes to the defense of a much-maligned film or TV show, or sets their sights on something seemingly beloved by all. In this edition: a defense of Interstellar as one of Christopher Nolan’s greatest movies.)

“If I can fix every detail of this time in my mind, I can keep this moment always.”Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Christopher Nolan makes cold films. At least, that seems to be one of the biggest complaints frequently lobbied against the filmmaker. Film after film, from Memento to Insomnia to The Prestige to the Dark Knight trilogy and beyond, Nolan’s work may be technically proficient and visually dazzling, but some audiences and critics alike come away wondering where the heart is. He’s not a humanist filmmaker the way Steven Spielberg is, but more akin to Stanley Kubrick (before you crucify me for this statement, I’m only comparing Nolan and Kubrick on the emotional front, or lack thereof; this is not a comparison of their directorial abilities).

Yet anyone looking for heart in a Nolan film need look no further than the expansive 2014 epic Interstellar, which may very well be his masterpiece. With Interstellar, Nolan intertwines the grand adventure of a space exploration film with a beating heart. “To me, space exploration represents the absolute extreme of what the human experience is,” Nolan says. “It’s all about trying, in some way, to define what our existence means in terms of the universe. For a filmmaker, the extraordinary nature of a few select individuals pushing the boundaries of where the human species has ever been or can possibly go opens up an infinite set of possibilities. I was excited by the prospect of making a film that would take the audience into that experience through the eyes of those first explorers moving outwards into the galaxy — indeed to a whole other galaxy. … That’s as big a journey as you can imagine trying to tell.”

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WAr for the Planet of the Apes

Hollywood loves a good apocalypse. Post-apocalyptic films continue to flourish, and with the way current events seem to be headed, these movies are becoming even more relevant. Be it exciting adventure films or bleak existential reflections, the end of the world is big business for show business. After all, who doesn’t want to see the human race meet its demise at this point?

This week, those damn dirty apes are back for War For the Planet of the Apes, the latest film in the surprisingly excellent reboot of the Planet of the Apes franchise. Once again, humanity inches ever-closer to extinction while intelligent apes claim the planet for themselves. Good for them! In the grand scheme of post-apocalyptic films, it’s not that bad, especially when compared to some other films in a similar vein. In the spirit of this latest cinematic excursion into the aftermath of the end of the world, let’s rank some cinematic post-apocalypses from how tolerable they seem to how devastatingly awful they are. Sounds pleasant! Ever wonder how you might fare in the aftermath of the end of the world? Reading this list is the only way to find out!

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